Students at Project Amigo school in Mexico gather to say goodbye to Terry Miller and Margaret Acton of the Rotary Club of Sunshine Coast.
 
Rotarians just can’t stop trying to make the world a better place – even when they are on vacation.
 
This story begins thirty-five years ago when some Rotarians were visiting the Colima volcanoes in Mexico. They noticed that the children of migrant workers working in the sugarcane fields outside the city were not in school.
 
“They asked around and discovered there were no schools close enough for them to attend,” said Terry Miller, current treasurer of the Rotary Club of the Sunshine Coast. Another barrier was that Mexican schools required students to speak Spanish and most of the migrant workers did not speak the language.
 
“Those visiting Rotarians found the means to build and staff a kindergarten school, and then a primary school,” Miller said. Thus was launched an ongoing relationship with the district. They called it Project Amigo. Since then Rotary has seen two migrant children go on to earn master's degrees, while 74 have graduated from universities and now almost 500 students are currently in various levels of the education system.
 
“The school turned out to be so successful, the government ended up taking it over, and Rotarians switched their focus to providing extras such as latrines and water,” Miller said.
 
Miller and his wife, Margaret Acton, recently visited the area, spending “English Week” with some of the older students. They spoke conversational English with them while participating in everyday activities such as going to the market. They also spent a day trip at a university residence in Colima. It was an eye-opening experience for the students.
 
“Hot water comes out of a shower,” one of them said in awe.
 
For anyone interested in sponsoring a child, the sponsorship cost for students in grades 1 through 6 is $100 US per year.  The cost rises to $400-$600 US for those in secondary school. A sponsorship of $4,000 US per year is required for students at the university level to cover food and lodgings and appropriate supervision in a donated facility.
 
Over the years Project Amigo has grown in popularity. “While we were there, we saw pennants from 900 different clubs who have supported the project,” said Miller. “They rely on Rotary support and Rotary visitors to survive [and] the school has become the biggest employer in town.”
 
Rotarians who go to Mexico to help at the school pay for their airfare, plus $1,500 US to stay there for a week. The money is used to support the school.
 
Miller said Project Amigo scholars have graduated from various programs such as in medical fields, law, education, nursing, business administration, software engineering, social work and agronomy, to name a few. 
 
After 35 years of Rotarian involvement, so much hope has been given to children who didn’t have any hope of education at all. For more information about the project at www.projectamigo.org